Friday, January 20, 2017

WDW Marathon Weekend Cigna's Blogger and Social Media Meet-up Recap

During the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, I was invited to attend the Cigna Blogger and Social Media Meet-up on the day of the 10k- Friday. With instructions to meet at the Grand Floridian Resort, I boarded a bus with some of my favorite bloggers- Justin, Gelcys, EmeliaSharpie- and headed to Sunset Showcase at Hollywood Studios.

All the cool kids sit in the back of the bus. Photo: Justin.

We arrived at Sunset Showcase (a huge building tucked into the back of the park) and were treated to a healthy lunch as we learned what "Cigna's Great Race" was all about. Basically, we were split into teams of 7-8 people and given a bag of supplies, clues, and other random things we'd need for the race. Each team had a Cigna guide that would take pictures for our group. The goal of the game was to solve all the riddles, collect various items around the park, and get pictures or video doing various tasks in different places in the park in just under 90 minutes. 

Check out this room! Photo copyright: Phelan Ebenhack

I loved the Villans theme of this area. Photo copyright: Phelan Ebenhack

Yes, I am piling my plate full of dessert- 80/20, y'all, 80/20 😁 Photo copyright: Phelan Ebenhack

I was on Team Mickey with several other fitness/Disney enthusiast bloggers and we set off right away into Hollywood Studios, clues in hand. Some of the clues involved finding another team to participate- for example, we had to grab another team, go to a certain location in the park, and play a childhood game with them. We found Team Minnie and played "Red Rover." I have to admit, it was pretty fun! It's probably been 25 years since I played a school yard game with friends. 

Seriously, this was a blast! Photo copyright: Phelan Ebenhack

I think we won? Photo copyright: Phelan Ebenhack

Team Mickey, ready to dominate!

There were at least 10 riddles we needed to solve for clues and some of them really stumped us! In addition to the clues, we also were charged with completing physical challenges: hold tree pose for 20 seconds as a group; collecting various items: condiments, gum, a healthy snack, etc.; and finding people to take a picture with: someone celebrating their birthday. After literally running through the park to get back to Sunset Showcase on-time, I was exhausted and sweaty- it was pretty warm that day! Luckily there was more dessert, a fun visit from Mickey and Donald, and the announcement of the winners in the cool, air-conditioned Sunset Showcase. 

Spelling a healthy word.... looks like... run?

Don't remember the clue but the answer is FISH!

Princess towels FTW.

Trying to gather those damn clues. 

So intense.
Two of my faves. Photo copyright: Phelan Ebenhack

Team Mickey ended up in third place, only missing a few of the clues. They gave the answers to all the riddles so we were able to figure out the ones we missed. After some group photos, they bused us back to Grand Floridian Resort where a few of us shared some adult beverages and relaxed for a bit before parting ways and preparing for the last two days of races. 

"1, 2, 3, MICKEY!" Photo copyright: Phelan Ebenhack
These people ❤ Photo credit: Gelcys

This was such a well-organized and fun event. I loved getting to spend time with friends and meet some new bloggers. And it really was a blast running through the park collecting clues and solving riddles- even when we couldn't figure out what the heck some of them were. HUGE thanks to Cigna for sponsoring Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and for hosting this awesome meet-up! 

Thanks, Cigna! Photo copyright: Phelan Ebenhack

Monday, January 2, 2017

Marvelous Monday: 1/2/17

Hey y'all! It's the first Monday of 2017! What?!? 😝

In lieu of Accountability Monday, I bring you a late-day Marvelous Monday! Super cheesy, but what can I say? I adore all alliteration. (Ok, ok, I'm done- promise) 😉

I wanted to write a quick post because I've got some awesome news and couldn't wait to share it with you! Actually, it's three very cool pieces of news and I think that deserves a whole post.

Number 1:
On Friday, I'll be attending Cigna's Blogger Event during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend! I attended this event back in 2015 and am so thrilled to be asked to be part of it again. I'll share more content from Cigna here later this week. Make sure you're following all the action on twitter and instagram this weekend using the hashtag #CignaRunTogether.


Number 2:
I'm working with Yaktrax, Dry Guy, and Falke as part of their Cold Conquerors Ambassador Team! Look for winter running product reviews on the blog soon- and see what other ambassadors are saying about winter sports using the hashtag #conquerwinter on twitter and instagram.

Number 3:
I am incredibly humbled and excited to announce that I will be an Altra Ambassador for 2017! If you read this blog often (or follow me on social media) then you know I've been a huge fan of Altras (specifically the Paradigm and Olympus models) for about two years and I am so honored to be an ambassador. Altras are the only shoe that fits all the needs for my cranky feet- wide space for my tailor's bunions, rocker bottom for the wicked arthritis in my left big toe, and cushion for those long, slow, back-of-the-pack runs. I can't wait to be part of this team!

2017 is going to be excellent. I can't wait to share it all with you here!

Have a fabulous week, friends!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: A Year in Review

Every year, it seems like time flies by quicker and quicker. Maybe it's because I'm getting older or maybe the 24/7 news cycle/social media feeds make it seem like time is just flying by. I remember when Matthew and I got engaged, our wedding date seemed so far away (a little over a year), and yet here we are, already eight months into marriage. Time passes so quickly. I'm thankful I have this little "internet diary" to serve as a memory of all the adventures had each year.

In my Weight Watchers meeting last night, we talked about how important reflection is in our weight loss journey; thinking about what made you proud, what you still want to achieve, and what progress you've made over the last year can help you in reaching future goals for the next year. Last year, for the first time ever, I actually wrote down what my goals were for the year. Some were obtained, some were forgotten- pretty typical New Year's Resolutions 😃

But this post won't run down all wins or losses I made based on the goals I set out for myself last year; mainly because that feels like measuring myself against a set of standards that don't quite fit where I am now. At the beginning of 2016, I had no idea how wedding planning, stress at work, and injuries would impact my running and weight loss journey. But they did so to try and hold myself to what I set out for last year just feels like setting up a long post about my failure.

Instead, here's a month-by-month reflection on 2016: what made me proud, what progress I made, and what I still want to achieve in 2017. Before we go any further, I owe you a huge thank you. Without my "internet friends," I don't really know where I'd be on this health/weight-loss/running journey. You keep me grounded, accountable, and make me feel supported. Thanks for doing that for me in 2016. ❤

Leading Weight Watchers meetings is hard, y'all. After a year of doing it, I have more experience and feel like some of my skills are getting better but it's still hard. It's also still so rewarding and most weeks, it brings a level of joy and motivation to my life that I don't know I can find elsewhere.

After battling tendinitis pretty much all winter, running the Princess Half with my friend Jen was simply magical. While we met our only goal, to finish, I wanted to felt stronger during this race. My knee was held together with KT tape and that pain kept me from training the way I wanted to.

Smiles and bling.

Spring brought a little more consistency to my running. My proudest running moment of the year happened at the Shamrock Half Marathon. It was 40 degrees and pouring down rain at the start with windy conditions during the entire race- but somehow I managed to run my second-fastest half marathon ever. I think Jen pacing us helped a lot!

Jen and me, killin it in the rain.

April brought two bridal showers, wedding dress fittings, crazy stress at work, and loads of last-minute wedding planning that added to the lack of working out/running. I was also struggling to keep my weight in check- I had wanted to walk down the aisle at a certain number on the scale, and in this month I realized it wasn't going to happen. What I still want to achieve in 2017 is being able to prioritize healthy living (meal-planning, working out, etc.) even when life gets very busy.

Running Ohana at my bridal shower. 

I finally made an honest man out of Matthew and married him. 😂 We aslo finished the Pittsburgh Steel Challenge (5k + half) and ran a 5k on the day of our wedding. While I didn't log the miles or workouts I wanted to during this month, planning and running a 5k the morning of our wedding kind of solidified for me how much my life has changed over the last 6 years I've been running!

One of the better days of my life ❤
Wedding Running Ohana.

After our honeymoon, we settled into summer and playing "catch up" after the wedding. I also ran my third Baltimore Women's Classic and loved it, as usual! We took another trip to the beach (Cape May, NJ) where my knee pain from February reared it's ugly head again. After seven days of walking to the beach, running, and biking all over town, my knee let me know it was definitely not ready for Walt Disney World Marathon training.

Vacation means wine in a plastic cup.

The middle of summer brought more travel and more focus back into my life. My meal planning was on point this month and I managed to stay on track while on another weekend beach trip. Moving into next year, I want to harness the power of meal planning/prepping and continue to be successful at making it actually happen. I also did a ton of physical therapy to help get my knee back to normal. Strength training and I don't get along well but I know it's one of those "musts" to stay healthy and manage my weight. 2017 might be the year I finally invest in a personal trainer and really figure this strength training thing out.

Damn tendinitis. 

To sum up this month, my hair and my runs got shorter. I hate running in the heat- give me snow any day over hot sun and humidity! I'm proud that I got any workouts in during late summer; it's always a time of the year that I struggle with in terms of working out.

Trying to perfect the #pointonemilesposeTM

Fall 2016 meant two things: better running weather and the start of the long runs of our Walt Disney World Marathon/Dopey Challenge training. With a 13 miler and a 15 miler, we fell right back into the marathon mindset- gearing ourselves up mentally for longer and longer runs. I am really proud of how I fueled for the increasing mileage and lost almost three pounds in September- pretty much unheard of me to lose weight during marathon training.

Next to December, October might be my favorite month of the year. Cooler temperatures, color-changing leaves, and hot drinks- all super cool things about fall in the mid-Atlantic. This October, Matthew and I were lucky enough to be able to spend a week in Ireland- and I only gained 1.4 pounds! Because we travel quite a bit, I am getting better and better at making healthy choices when out of my routine. We even snuck in a few runs in between all the sight seeing! Out hotel was on the route of the Dublin Marathon (taking place the day after we left) so we got to run the streets of Dublin with some inspirational signage- super cool.

I could run this city every day.

Two 20+ mile runs, the lowest weight I'd been since July 2015, and lots of time with family? November this year was awesome. If I could repeat this month for all of 2017, I'd be set! This month's progress can be attributed to really working my own Weight Watchers program- being mindful of why/how/how much I'm eating and simply moving more- whether that's running or walking or yoga or strength training.

The last month of 2016 was nowhere near as kind to me as November was. The scale has moved up higher than I'd want it to, I've been battling some recurrent foot pain (more on that in a post next week), and this year the holiday sweets are winning- I can't seem to stay away from those damn Christmas cookies! However, this has been a month of increased quality time with Matthew and both our families. And, we leave for Walt Disney World next week! So, maybe I'm not where'd I'd like to be but I still have a lot to be proud of from 2016 and I'm excited to see where I'll make progress in 2017.

Happy New Year!

What are you most proud of from 2016? Where do you want to see progress in 2017?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Thank you, ENELL!

As hard as it is for me to believe, my second year of being an ENELL ambassador is coming to an end. Representing a company (honestly, it's so much more than just a company) that I truly believe in has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience and I'm so thankful I had the opportunity again in 2016.

As part of the ENELL Race Team, they sent me some new ENELL gear to run in and sponsored three of my races. I've been wearing ENELL for about six years and have been so impressed with the gorgeous colors they've come out with in the last year: Dazzling Blue, Biscay Bay, and Rock It Red. As a well-endowed runner who cannot wear the "fun" bras from other companies, it is awesome to be able to sport a colorful, fun ENELL bra under my running tanks- somehow, the run just feels better if it's color-coordinated! 😁 And that Dazzling Blue was the perfect choice for my wedding day 5k as my "something blue!"

How amazing does that blue trim look with that blue tank?!

Besides the cool colors, ENELL also supports me like no other piece of clothing/running equipment. The first thing I pack for any trip is my ENELL. Basically, that's the only thing I can't replace. Running clothes? Sure. Shoes? Absolutely. A sports bra? No freaking way. This year, my ENELL came with me to Cape May, NJ, the Bahamas, Ireland- quite a lot of travel for a bra!

October running near our hotel in Dublin, Ireland.

Finishing the Castaway Cay 5k on our honeymoon in June.

Running races as an ENELL ambassador gave me the opportunity to raise awareness of this brand among other female runners. I can't tell you how many times I've chatted with other well-endowed folks who hadn't heard of ENELL and were surprised to know that a bra existed specifically for their and their girls' support needs.

Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May.

Baltimore Women's Classic in June.

Race 13.1 10k in December.

But what I love the most about ENELL, is the confidence this brand gave me to even think about becoming a runner. With the right support, you can do anything. And believe me, when I put on my ENELL, I truly feel #unshakable.

#IHaveARunnersBody ...but for years, I thought the exact opposite. Continued below ⤵ ✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨✨ ✨✨✨✨✨ Growing up overweight and well-endowed made it damn near impossible to think of myself as athletic, let alone a runner. In gym class, classmates would joke, "Hey Sarah, don't give yourself a black eye from jumping jacks!" I know they intended to be funny, but their comments hurt. My own negative thoughts about my body coupled with "jokes" from others pretty much sealed the deal for years and years of self-hatred and self-sabatoge. I hated my body and used food to both comfort and punish myself. But then I watched Matthew complete the @oddyssey_half in May 2011 and I saw so many people running that didn't fit my idea of what a "runner" looked like. And I thought, if they can do it, maybe I can do it too. So I started running. And I found @enellsportsbras, which absolutely changed what I thought about being well-endowed and running. The running led to thinking about my body differently; positively. That led to fueling my body better, which led to even more positive thoughts about my body. What's amazing about this is that none of these positive thoughts have to do with what I weigh or how fast I run. This body has allowed me to run two full marathons, 20 half marathons, and countless 5 and 10Ks. I'm damn proud of this runner's body! Five years of running later, #IHaveARunnersBody. But as it turns out, I had one all along. Change your mind, change your life. 💖💖💖 #bodypositivity #irunthisbody #werunsocial #Enell #support #womensrunningcommunity #effyourbeautystandards #runchat #teamenell #flawsandall
A photo posted by Sarah (@sparklyrunner) on

Even though my official ENELL Race Team ambassadorship is coming to an end, don't expect my love for this brand to go anywhere. You'll still be able to find me posting flat runner pictures on instagram, color-coordinating running outfits/costumes, and chasing down dreams, with my ENELL in tow. Thank you, ENELL, for all the literal and figurative support over the last year- it's been an honor to be part of the team! ❤

Friday, December 9, 2016

ENELL Ambassador Race Recap & Review: Race 13.1 Baltimore 10k

Note: As an ENELL Racing Ambassador, I receive race entry fees and merchandise, but I genuinely love the brand. All opinions here are my own. 

Last weekend, Matthew and I ran the inaugural Baltimore Race 13.1 10k. I know that sounds confusing- the race's name is "Race 13.1" and they offered a half marathon, 5k, and 10k option in Baltimore. Because Matthew and I had six miles on our marathon training plan anyway, and because we rarely find any 10k races in our area, we signed up for the 10k race.

This was also my last event as an ENELL Race Team Ambassador- talk about a bittersweet race! It has been a real joy getting to represent ENELL over the past year and this race was no different. Because it was going to be cold, somewhere in the 38-42 degree range, I decided to wear a long-sleeved quarter zip up under my ENELL singlet. And obviously, I had to add a Santa hat and a Sparkle Athletic skirt! 😁

Naturally, I had to wear my "Rock It Red" ENELL for this holiday-themed race.

Matthew and I chose to pick up our packets race morning. We parked in the recommended lot ($15) and walked the short walk down to Canton Waterfront Park to pick up our bibs and shirts. It felt 20 degrees colder when we were down near the water! This race started at 7 am and packet pick up was advertised for 5-6 am- so it was still dark out when we got our stuff. We opted to head back to the car and sit in the warmth until the race start- of course, not after we made a pit stop at the brand spankin' new port-o-potties!

New, clean port-o-potties with no line?! Every runner's dream! 

While we huddled in the car, we both decided to put on the race shirt because it was a little colder than we expected. The shirt we got was a really nice tech shirt and I put mine on under the long-sleeved quarter zip and my ENELL singlet. Another reason I love ENELL bras- I can change in public and not feel like I'm exposing myself to the world. 😜

The back of the shirt has the race's mantra printed on it: "You can. You will."

At about 6:40, we made our way to the starting line in Canton Waterfront Park. We noticed the different colored bibs for the different distances and realized that there were very few 10kers in comparison to the half marathoners. The half and 10k were going to start at 7 and then the 5k would start at 7:10 am.

There weren't many people at the race, maybe around 1,500, and there were even fewer folks that dressed up in holiday gear. While taking a few pre-race pictures, I did manage to find some other like-minded runners, however:

Christmas, in runner form.
Proud ENELL ambassador.

After a quick playing of the National Anthem, the race began! The half marathoners and 10kers would follow the same course for the first three miles and then the 10kers would turn around to head back to the park and the finish line. This course was very different from most of the Baltimore races I've done- mainly because we did very little running near the Inner Harbor, where most of the Baltimore races start and finish.

This course was pretty easy to follow- there were plenty of volunteers and police out there making sure we knew where we were going and making sure we were safe. The course wasn't totally closed; there were times where the police had to stop traffic to allow the runners to safely cross the road. But there were absolutely no issues at all with us being able to run our race and feel safe.

Waiting at the start...

Good morning, Canton!

A beautiful day for a race.

The turnaround point for the 10k was right near the National Aquarium and it was well-marked. Matthew and I were keeping a pretty good pace averaging right around 11:45 minute miles. I noticed that my Garmin was picking up the miles a few hundred feet before the posted mile marker (not unusual) until mile five. We saw the mile marker for mile five and then my Garmin didn't hit five until well after the mile marker. In fact, my Garmin recorded the race as being 6.15 miles long, not the 6.2 that is the correct distance for a 10k. Weird, but not totally unusual for my watch to be different than the course.

The views on the way back to the finish were absolutely stunning- watching the sun come up over the water was so gorgeous! However, I wished I'd brought sunglasses- it was so bright! I also ended up being over dressed. Around mile three I was so damn hot. I should have left the race shirt in the car.

I think we're supposed to turn here 😜

So pretty.

The Inner Harbor from a different angle.

When we finished the race, we headed over to the food table. I was expecting some water and bananas but there was so much more! Panera bagels, bear claws, scones, etc. It was quite a spread!

They also had computers there where we could check out our official finish time- 1:13:37. Matthew grabbed a bagel, I got some fruit, we took a few selfies and then headed back to our car.

Stats from Garmin Connect.

All. The. Carbs. 

What's better than a Panera bagel?!

In summary, this was a well-organized and fun race with a unique course. The race shirt is pretty cool and the post-race food was abundant and awesome. And oh yeah, there was a man playing an accordion at the start and then again at the finish so that should definitely fit into your decision making if you want to put this one on your calendar. 😂

As always, I was thankful to have my ENELL bra to support the girls while I was pounding the pavement. And though you couldn't see it, I was happy my bra matched my outfit. I'm pretty sure that's always a contributing factor to having a good run/race. ❤

Have you participated in a Race 13.1 race before? What did you think?